Food Safety During the Holiday Season

Food safety during the holiday season

Posted in Culinary, Food Safety on Dec 16, 2020

The Christmas season is well and truly underway in New Zealand.  It is a busy time of year filled with barbecues and holiday feasts with friends and family. But while you are enjoying your ham, pavlova and summer salads, it’s important to think about food safety during the holiday season.  You don’t want to miss out on all the delicious Christmas food and summer fun due to a nasty case of food poisoning! A few years ago my husband spent Christmas day in bed (and in close proximity to the bathroom) after eating undercooked chicken at a barbecue. It put him off barbecue chicken for a very long time!

According to Food Safety New Zealand, over 200,000 New Zealanders suffer from foodborne illness each year with around 40% of those cases occurring in the home.  Foodborne illnesses can be caused by bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter as well as viruses and toxins that contaminate food.  Bacteria grow faster in warmer weather and this unfortunately increases the risk of getting sick from the foods we eat. Foodborne illness can be a serious health issue for vulnerable groups such as the very young, elderly, and pregnant woman. Here are some useful tips to remember to avoid getting sick these holidays.

CLEAN: 

  • Wash your hands (for 20 seconds) before eating, handling food and after preparing raw meat.  Use hot soapy water and dry with a clean hand towel or paper towel.  
  • Keep your kitchen surfaces and utensils clean and use separate chopping boards for raw meat and scrub in hot soapy water after each use  
  • Replace dish cloths and sponges regularly - add them to a hot wash cycle in the dishwasher or microwave on high for 3-4 minutes
  • Rinse fruit and vegetables before eating under cold running water  
  • Do not rinse raw meat such as chicken or turkey as rinsing can spread germs and cross-contaminate other surfaces or foods  

DEFROSTING AND STORING:  

  • Defrost meat in the fridge - not the bench top.  Or use the defrost setting in the microwave  
  • Keep meat separate from other foods and store covered on the bottom shelf of the fridge  
  • Keep food covered or in containers in the fridge until you are ready to serve, and cover foods that are outside to protect from insects
  • Check that your fridge temperature is between 2°C and 4°C - pathogens that cause foodborne illness grow in food at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C

COOKING AND SERVING: 

  • Marinate raw meat in the fridge instead of the kitchen bench and always dispose of any left over marinade
  • Ensure that you cook meat patties and sausages right through before serving (so that they are not pink in the middle)  
  • Pork and poultry need to be cooked until juices run clear in the thickest part 
  • Consider using a meat thermometer and follow cooking instructions 
  • On the BBQ grill, keep raw and cooked meat and poultry separate 
  • Use separate plates and utensils to transfer raw and cooked foods 
  • When taking food to a party or picnic use a chilly bin with ice packs to keep cold foods chilled

LEFTOVERS: 

  • Cover and refrigerate leftovers within two hours of preparation
  • Eat leftovers within two days 
  • If you are lucky enough to have any ham leftover, store the ham in the fridge covered with a damp tea towel which you can change daily  
  • Eat the ham within two weeks, however sliced ham should be eaten within a few days.  You can also freeze leftover ham
  • Reheat leftovers until they are piping hot (over 75 degrees Celsius) and do not reheat leftovers more than once

Claire Duncumb
Claire Duncumb

The most recent addition to the FoodTruths team is Claire, our community and campaigns extraordinaire. While studying at the University of Auckland Claire developed a real passion for food, especially working towards a future where all people have access to healthy and safe food, an audacious but essential calling. Her Masters of Nutritional Science at Massey University epitomised this, as she researched the habits and impacts of breakfasts of New Zealand children. Since then her career has spanned sectors of nutrition, health promotion and medical insurance. Food is entrenched in Claire's day to day life. In addition to her work, she can often be found not far from Takapuna enjoying Auckland's sensational gastronomy. A lover of cooking, reading and spending time with family amongst New Zealand's amazing places, Claire is a foodie on a mission to build a better food future.

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